According to CBSSports.com, Monday’s NCAA men’s basketball championship between Duke and Wisconsin brought in an average of 28.3 million viewers, which gave the contest the highest ratings in 18 years for a tournament title game.
By comparison, the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIX brought in 114.5 million viewers, the 2014 MLB World Series averaged 13.8 million over the seven-game series, the NBA Finals averaged 15.5 million over the five-game series, the NHL’s Stanley Cup averaged 5 million over the five-game series, and the most recent NCAA football championship game averaged 33.4 million viewers.
At the outset of the tournament, the New York Times ran a piece belittling college basketball’s ratings.
“So what in college sports could be a bigger fan draw than the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament?” asked Richard Sandomir. “How about a bunch of bowl games? Yes, college football bowl games — nearly all of which had no meaning other than providing athletes with a postseason experience.”
The NCAA tournament’s television-ratings triumph comes during a period in which broadcast television faces challenges from the internet. The internet, like television, grabbed massive viewership, which puts into perspective the massive numbers TV did vis-a-vis title games that did not face competition from the web.
“Additionally, NCAA March Madness Live generated several all-time records,” CBSSports.com noted, “including 80.7 million live video streams and 17.8 million hours of live video consumption during this year’s tournament. This year’s live video streams are up 17% over last year, with hours of live video consumption up 19% this year. NCAA March Madness Live also delivered all-time records for Monday’s National Championship with 3.4 million live video streams and one million hours of live video consumption.”
Duke emerged victorious in the tight game, 68-63, to win their fifth national championship in the last quarter century.
Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifiTrent